Marine Microalgae, a top candidate to combat global warming, energy and food insecurity.

Photo credit: AZO Cleantech: Image credit: moonoi172 /

We may have stumbled onto the next green revolution.

Charles H. Greene, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University

Marine Microalgae may Help Create Green Fuel, Combat Global Warming and Food Insecurity

According to a study published in the journal Oceanography (December 2016), microalgae, which are taken from the bottom of the marine food chain, may soon become a top candidate to combat global warming, energy and food insecurity.

The new study provides an overview of the idea of large-scale industrial cultivation of marine microalgae (ICMM).

ICMM could minimize the use of fossil fuel by providing liquid hydrocarbon biofuels for cargo shipping and aviation industries. Lipids are extracted from microalgae biomass for producing biofuels and the remaining microalgae biomass can then be converted into nutritious animal feeds or maybe consumed by humans.

In order to produce biofuel, researchers harvest freshly grown microalgae, extract most of the water, and then remove the lipids for the fuel. The residual defatted biomass is highly nutritious and protein-rich byproduct, which can be added to feeds for domesticated animals, such as pigs and chickens, or aquacultured animals, such as shrimp and salmon.

Growing sufficient algae to meet the current global demand for liquid fuel would require an area of approximately 800,000 square miles, or a little less than three times the size of Texas. Simultaneously, 2.4 billion tons of protein co-product would be produced, which corresponds to nearly 10 times the global annual production of soy protein.

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Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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